A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama and Kenya. Again.


We’ve burned through rather a lot of pixels combating the claims of those who deny that Barack Obama is eligible to be president of the United States. He is, by virtue of having been born in Hawaii, as attested to repeatedly by state officials and even by the flagship of conservative publications, the National Review. And, for the 10 percent of you out there who aren’t entirely sure, yes, Hawaii is part of the United States.

We’ve given the denialists a lot of grief for the times they’ve been wrong. But we’d be remiss not to note when they get something right. Our Aug. 29, 2008, Ask FactCheck item asking whether Obama has Kenyan citizenship correctly stated that Obama did have dual citizenship as a child but that it expired as an adult. But Leo Donofrio, a lawyer, argues that we got the year wrong. He’s right about that, and we have corrected the item.

Initially, we said that Obama’s citizenship expired in 1982, on Obama’s 21st birthday. In fact, however, the Kenyan Constitution provides a two-year window during which one can decide which citizenship to keep. So, President Obama’s Kenyan citizenship expired on Aug. 4, 1984, not 1982, as we had initially reported.

We regret the error. But we do note that the two-year change doesn’t really make any difference. As we’ve said before, the only constitutional requirements for being elected president are that one be at least 35 years old, reside in the U.S. for 14 consecutive years prior to election and be a natural-born citizen. Obama was born in Hawaii. And he lost his Kenyan citizenship around the same time Don Johnson created a minor crisis in the sock and the razor blade manufacturing industries.

That hasn’t kept Donofrio from arguing otherwise, with the usual conspiracy-theorist mix of twisted logic and misreading of the law. If  you really want to get into the weeds with his argument (or, really, with any other birth certificate related question), we suggest that you head over to Obama Conspiracy Theories, where a blogger who uses the pseudonym "Dr. Conspiracy" has taken on the Herculean (or is that Sisyphean?) task of debunking birth certificate related conspiracies. We agree with his take on Donofrio’s argument.

Corrected (Sep. 7, 2009): We initially described Donofrio as a former lawyer. News reports listed him as "retired," but he told us via e-mail that he is currently an active attorney.